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Episode 207: Trunks & Leaves, Elephant Conservation w/Dr Shermin de Silva

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This week we welcome Dr. Shermin de Silva, the founder and President of Trunks and Leaves. Dr. de Silva is an expert in Asian elephant conservation. We discuss many of the issues facing elephants in Asia. It is a fascinating look at how Asian elephant conservation differs from African elephant conservation. We also discuss many differences between African and Asian elephants and how that can influence their futures.


Dr. de Silva also asked us to share this as she said:

We have an emerging crisis in which one of the critical corridors linked to the national park is under threat. You can see more about it here on our blog. It’s a developing situation and I am setting up a legal defense fund for the lawsuits being filed to protect the corridor.
You can donate to the defense fund by the following link (Thank you!)
You can visit the Trunks and Leaves website HERE


In 2005, University of Pennsylvania graduate student Shermin de Silva returned to her home country of Sri Lanka hoping to study the animals that she had grown up taking for granted: Asian elephants.

They were such a pervasive part of the culture, and captive Asian elephants so seemingly commonplace, that it was surprising that very little was understood about the behavior of wild Asian elephants. Udawalawe National Park, with its spacious savanna-like environment and teeming elephant population, seemed the perfect place to start a study. In what was then the sleepy village of Udawalawe, the Udawalawe Elephant Research Project (UWERP) was initiated in collaboration with Dr. Devaka Weerakoon of the University of Colombo.
By the time her PhD was completed in 2010, it was evident that the Asian elephants at Udawalawe didn’t behave as expected, based on the many prior studies of their cousins, the African savanna elephants. UWERP was among the first to document the social structure of wild Asian elephants, and the ways in which they communicate. It also uncovered the surprising finding that there were probably twice as many elephants using the national park than was previously thought! The data from these studies played an important role in a 2008 Sri Lankan Supreme Court case that prevented encroachment of a sanctuary attached to the National Park, and prevented it from being de-listed.
February 18, 2021
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